June 30, 2021

Interview with Rishi O: Extreme Minimalist Travel w/the Synapse 19

Rishi O. holding his Synapse 19 and what he carries in his bag.

In 2018, Rishi O shared his extended travel packing list in a post in our Forums (Everything I own in the Synapse 19). He recently posted an update in the unofficial TOM BIHN Facebook Group, and we then asked Rishi O if we could interview him for our blog and catch up on what's changed since 2018 — in life, packing, traveling, and bags. You can follow Rishi O and his work over at rishio.com.

Extreme Minimalist Travel using the TOM BIHN Synapse 19 Backpack: An Interview with Rishi O

Back in 2018, you fit everything you owned into — and lived out of — your Synapse 19. How has your life evolved since?

For those few years, I was an extreme minimalist living out of the Synapse 19. After traveling around Asia for some time, I settled in Taiwan, where I teach English and do Photography. I am no longer an extreme “minimalist,” but I value that lifestyle. As such, I would call myself an “essentialist.” I now have a simple home with a little kitchen, a small white table to work & eat on, a bean-bag, a few essentials, and a lot of empty space. I love it this way. Empty space gives me a feeling of freedom. Everything we own carries a weight in our minds, and the only weight I want to hold are of those things that serve me. It’s about keeping my mind clear and conserving my energy for things that really matter.

Do you still carry your Synapse 19? If so, how do you use it now?
I’ve owned the Synapse 19 for several years, and till this day, I use it almost every-time I leave my home. It’s not that it’s a great minimalist bag. It’s not that it’s a great traveling bag. It’s not that it’s a great photography bag. It’s not that it’s a great everyday bag. The beauty of the Synapse 19 is that, like a Chameleon, it changes with me. When I go to work, it’s my everyday bag holding my iPad, some cables, a wind jacket, a water bottle, an umbrella, my wallet, along with some other goodies. When I do photography, I add a tripod and some snacks to the mix. When I travel, it becomes the only bag I take with me and the one I live out of. I love this TOM BIHN bag and it’s been my trusty companion for the past several years. If there were a disaster and I had to run out of my home, I’d do well with the Synapse 19 and my core essential items in it.
Reflecting on the past several years, what do you think you’ve learned about life, travel, and packing?
I’ve learned to be more mindful, slow down, keep things simple, and look deeper than the surface. I’m not here to brag about how little I own or how slow and simple I can live. It’s not a competition. Our energy is precious and I just want to use mine for things that really matter — to have more space and clarity to do what feels right. To follow my flow and see where that takes me.
And what’s next for you?
I’m enjoying working on my passion photography project at rishio.com. In it, I practice letting go of control and explore the natural flow of life. I’m also learning how to have a “minimal” mind. Getting rid of stuff is one thing, but clearing my mind of too many thoughts, distractions and desires, takes my practice to the next level and I want to explore this. Though I’m now an essentialist, I do cherish the things that serve me. I’d love to upgrade to the Synik 22 Guide's Edition. They’ve refined the bag in the way that fits me and I’m happy to wear a product that aligns with my values and enrichens my life.
Last updated Oct 2022 to correct the name of Rishi's project.

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We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.